Home Lifestyle The Rise of Industrial-Style Chic

The Rise of Industrial-Style Chic

by Heather Warthen
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Urban lofts and artists studios converted from old warehouses and industrial buildings are abundant nowadays. Not only are they great reuses of existing structures, but they give insight into America’s industrial past. Let’s take a look at the history of these buildings and how their practical design has come to be stylistically embraced.


The first industrial buildings in the U.S. were constructed in the late 1700s, after the Industrial Revolution had made its way from Europe. According to an article by Industrial Marketer, these buildings were narrow structures with large windows, relying on natural light in the absence of electricity. Designed to facilitate work and prevent fires, they were simple and plain. Architects built buildings with flat roofs, open floor plans, and side stairwells, and refrained from adding attics and ornamental objects. This resulted in the “unfinished” look we appreciate in modern industrial style: exposed bricks, pipes and ductwork. 

With the rise of technological advances in the early 1900s, larger, more adaptable factories were required. New building materials, such as concrete and steel, were used – thanks to Albert Kahn, one of the most influential architects of industrial design. The need for monstrous new buildings meant that some factories had to move out of cities and metropolitan areas to find large enough parcels of land, abandoning the old. 

The late 1960s and ‘70s became a period of factory renewal in New England and Lower Manhattan. The spaces were turned into housing and studios, where artists were inspired by the building’s character and natural light. Interior designers and magazines all over the U.S. followed suit and glamorized the “industrial chic” style. Impressive Interior Design summarizes the style as a juxtaposition of the raw, classic features and the refined, modern finishes. 

Get the Look

The first step to achieve this look is to actually do nothing – keep the bare bones of the exposed brick walls, steel columns, and metal pipes and ducts. Not only does this eliminate the cost of covering the exposed features, but it allows the history of the building to shine through. If you don’t happen to live in a refurbished industrial building, fake it with faux brick wall panels or concrete flooring.

The Spruce advises starting with a neutral color palette, then layering in some warm tones, like worn wood, to balance the coolness of the metal pipes and ducts. Vintage and salvaged items are recommended to stay in tune with the refurbished theme. Find furniture and décor treasures at your local thrift store or Facebook Marketplace. If you’re not into second hand, search Restoration Hardware or CB2 for vintage-esque with a modern twist. 

Next, add industrial style light fixtures made out of rustic metals or brushed nickel, copper, or cast iron. Bonus points if you can find fixtures that feature Edison bulbs. Floor lamps and track lights are also great options for inside. Don’t forget to bring the look to your outdoor spaces, too – My Move recommends using large bulb string lights.

To get a more chic look and create a visual balance between the industrial features, introduce plush couches and rugs. Another fun option would be to add a drippy, crystal chandelier to add a touch of femininity to the otherwise masculine space.

Industrial Chic REX homes

Looking to move and love this style? Check out these industrial chic REX homes:

1010 Sycamore Ave Unit 101, South Pasadena, CA 91030

50 E 16th St Unit 415, Chicago, IL 60616

Article by Megan Kong, REX Homes

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